Wireless to challenge 3G?

22 Apr 2003

Wireless networking may establish itself as the dominant mobile wireless infrastructure within the next five years at 3G’s expense, according to a report published by Berlin-based market researcher Metrinomics.

Almost 90pc of participants in the study also believed that wireless networking (or Wi-Fi) would be the infrastructure of choice should their employers decide to implement an in-house infrastructure solution within the next five years.

The report, a comparative study of the respective security, performance and cost benefits of the two very different technologies, is based on the questioning of just under 300 members of Metrinomics 11,000-strong online IT Panel. The results may make grim reading for 3G providers that have woken up to the fact that they may well have shelled out billions on 3G licensing only to see Wi-Fi ride in on its very expensive coat-tails.

Not only is Wi-Fi perceived as being the better overall performer of the two infrastructures, it is also considered to have a better range of available services than 3G. Some consolation is provided by the fact that almost three quarters of those questioned consider 3G roaming to be superior to that of Wi-Fi.

Despite Wi-Fi backward compatibility problems caused by a number of competing wireless standards such as 802.11a, 802.11b and the upcoming 802.11g, twice as many report participants were of the mind that Wi-Fi delivers greater interoperability than 3G. Ongoing 3G handset delivery problems and consumer perceptions about mobile network operators ability to seamlessly migrate from 2G to 3G have also directly impacted on 3G’s interoperability reputation.

Announcing the report launch, Metrinomics project manager, Matt Slater, said:
“Anecdotal 3G consumer interest to date shows that consumers, although intrigued by 3G, might not be able to cross the 3G divide unless prices and, paradoxically 3G takeup, fall and increase respectively. Incumbent company spoiling tactics of squeezing the last drop of utility out of 2G services – such as Vodafone’s Vodafone Live! service – may further damage market opportunities for new 3G products. The failure of Hutchison Whampoa’s 3 to take off could prove, if not fatal, then certainly damaging to the 3G industry as a whole. 3G enjoys higher consumer visibility, but has yet to wholly convince existing mobile users of the need to make the change to 3G.”

By Dick O’Brien